Williamsburg -- Gov.-electTerry McAuliffe called on the state's business community to back him in pushing to expand Medicaid.
McAuliffe said expanding Medicaid would be a priority, and invoked the Virginia Chamber of Commerce's previously expressed support of the idea with his call for businesses' help to convince the Republican dominated House of Delegates to go along.
"We cannot have the best workforce when one-eighth of our people can only access health care through emergency rooms," he told the 600 plus people at the chamber's fourth annual Economic Summit at the Williamsburg Lodge on Wednesday.
But, he said, if business leaders -- including corporate chief executives -- do not directly speak with legislators, expansion will not happen.
Medicaid is the joint federal-state program that provides health insurance for the poor and disabled. While Virginia's Medicaid system and its FAMIS system provide insurance to children from low- and moderate-income families, people with disabilities and parents get coverage only when their incomes are fractions of the poverty line. Working adults with no children cannot get Medicaid at all, no matter how little they earn.
McAuliffe also cited the chamber's new Blueprint Virginia proposal to boost the state economy, saying he and the business community shared goals of improving workforce development and reforming the Standards of Learning to ensure students are learning the skills they need for employment.
He said he shared the chamber's goal of broadening access to preschool programs.
McAuliffe said education reforms, workforce programs and improving health care were all key to economic development.
Before McAuliffe spoke, economist Christine Chmura told the group that Virginia is likely to grow more slowly than the rest of the nation unless it steps up efforts to teach and train its people for jobs in technical, scientific and health areas.
Chmura said federal across-the board budget cuts had hit Virginia harder than any other state, while the contraction of defense spending to peacetime levels would also slow the state's economy.
Political scientist Bob Holsworth told the group that its key goals of boosting workforce training could be a basis for consensus between Democrat McAuliffe and the overwhelmingly Republican House of Delegates.